In this series, families in the Reaching Children’s Potential (RCP) Demonstration Program in Tanzania explain how their participation improves their lives. Global Volunteers’ RCP Program engages short-term volunteers to help parents deliver essential services improving health, eradicating hunger, and enhancing cognition – with the goal of eliminating child stunting in the Ukwega Ward and throughout Tanzania. Through RCP, families obtain the nutrition, health care, knowledge, technology, and encouragement needed to combat stunting, and to ensure their children can realize their full potential. The RCP Program is a child-focused, parent-driven, family-centered, and community-led comprehensive effort. It begins with pregnancy, and continues through the 18th birthday, with a focus on the first 1,000 days of life. Read Ruth Duma’s interview about the RCP Program here.
Ruth, we’d love to learn about your background, where you grew up, and your family.
I was born and grew up in Iringa, but Ipalamwa is my home. I met my husband here in Ipalamwa and we now have a home in Lulindi as well. My husband and I both were able to complete only our primary education. He works at the RCP Center as a security guard. He is very supportive and encouraging. We also farm. Our main crops are beans and corn, and we also grow sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, vegetables, and fruits, like bananas and avocadoes.
What parts of the RCP Program are most important to you, Ruth?
Life has been different since we started working with the program. I love everything about the program because I find everything to be a benefit. Not only me, but even other people in society are benefitting, especially due to the health services. Formerly, we only had a small dispensary and many patients would be referred to Iringa since they can’t accommodate a lot of health issues. It was difficult to get transportation to Iringa, and this would cause many deaths on the way or for moms to be delivering their babies on the way. But since the program was introduced and we have the Ipalamwa General Clinic, everything has been very smooth, especially getting care for pregnant women. Now we can get the services here and we are helped with the transportation if there is any complication that cannot be attended to at the Ipalamwa General Clinic. We are very grateful and happy to have this kind of services.
I have learned a lot from the program especially in the matters of nutrition and healthy pregnancy. I like the workshops because I learn new things that I never knew before. The home visits are great, too, because we are reminded of the things that we are supposed to do. My last pregnancy, with Sara, was very different from my previous pregnancies.
“Life has been different since we started working with the program. I love everything about the program because I find everything to be a benefit.”– Ruth Duma, RCP mom
What made your pregnancy with Sara easier than your previous pregnancies, Ruth?
I was directed very well by the staff at the Ipalamwa General Clinic and in a professional way. This made me feel comfortable and reduced my worries. I was not able to deliver at the Ipalamwa General Clinic, but I was given services during my entire pregnancy and up through now. They have great services I had never seen before. Everything is done professionally and in a way that makes everyone who gets the services there feel welcomed and comfortable. This is very different from our local dispensary where all this is not done. If possible, we would be very grateful if there were more wards outside the Ipalamwa General Clinic for pregnant women or other patients.
We know you’ve made some important changes in your daily routine that have resulted in better health for you and your children. What are you doing differently now as a member of RCP?
I have benefited from using the hand-washing station. Formerly, we were experiencing diseases like stomach fever and diarrhea and I have come to discover that it was because we were not washing our hands. We were doing many activities and coming from the bathroom without washing our hands, but since I attended the workshop on hand washing and I was provided with the hand-washing station, the rate of diseases in my family went down. Now, it’s very rare to have someone sick in the house.
At the beginning it was challenging to implement this practice, especially with my children because it was hard for them to adopt this new thing. But I kept on insisting with them and now they like washing their hands all the time. I have taught my family to always be washing their hands.
Tell us about how you’ve added the Rise Against Hunger meals to your daily diet.
The meals are very important to me and my child. We eat the meals twice every day. Other foods that we eat in our family are Irish potatoes, beans, ugali, rice, porridge (mixture of corn, peanuts, rice, and wheat), vegetables, and meat, depending on the availability in the village. We also eat fruits like avocados and bananas. Since we started eating the Rise Against Hunger meals, both Sara’s and my health have been very nice and stable. Her weight has been increasing every time I go to the clinic. My weight has also been increasing and I find myself stronger than before and producing enough breast milk for my child. My child loves the Rise Against Hunger meals the most and she likes to eat them by herself. Sara loves to eat the meals with beans, so I always try to make beans available for her to eat with them.
What worries you, and what are you most proud of as a family?
Economic issues are the big challenge, but we usually struggle to make sure that we are surviving. I love chicken keeping and I have already started the program. In the few years to come, I hope to have eggs and more chickens for sale. I have also planned to keep on farming and have a small business here in the village for selling domestic items. I’m proud of my family. I feel very happy and peaceful when they are around me.
“Since the program was introduced and we have the Ipalamwa General Clinic, everything has been very smooth, especially getting care for pregnant women. Now we can get the services here. We are very grateful and happy to have this kind of services.”– Ruth Duma, RCP mom
What can you tell us about your children, Ruth? What are your hopes for them?
All of my children love sports more than any other thing. Their performance is moderate at school, but recently they have become much more active than before. This is because they are receiving two meals a day at school. I hope and believe that they will improve more and more. Sara, my little one, loves working. She is still young but very active and brilliant. I pray my children will become better people in the world with a high education level. I want my children to either be doctors, engineers, or teachers. That is my prayer. My husband and I are working very hard to make sure we provide every need that our children might have.
The program is very helpful and it will continue to be helpful to my children if I decide to be transparent about the situations that I don’t understand so that I can be helped. I’m ready to receive what the program offers for the good future of our children.